Maybe it’s the blue, headache-causing Hurricanes. Maybe it’s the Cheers-like bar inside (where everybody knows your shame). Maybe it’s the riverside tables, where you can watch tubers and paddleboarders swim by. Maybe it’s even that confounded ring toss game where you try to swing a ring onto a hook that seems impossibly far away. Whatever it is, people seem to like hanging out at Sunpies, one of the best excuses for a dive bar in town.
“It’s just a fun place to hang out that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg,” says co-owner John Duty. “It has a cool, local vibe all year long.”
Located at 735 Yampa St., and a past winner of Town’s Best Bar honors, Sunpies’ New Orleans spin owes itself to southern founders Mike and Colleen Miller, who gave it its Hurricanes (a 20-ounce mixture of rum and juices), Po’ Boy shrimp sandwiches and Gumbo. When it was purchased a decade ago by brothers John and Jarett Duty, and partners Chad and Sarah Gagliano, they did little to change this vibe, adhering to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”—which could also apply to its dedicated patrons, who don’t necessarily sip Patron.
Saddle up to the bar indoors, which can get a bit tight; the open-aired bar outside with a roof overhead, evoking a more southern latitude feeling; or take a seat on the grass along the river. If you’re a local, you’ll likely know someone, and if you’re a visitor, you’ll meet one.
“We always liked what they had done with it,” John says, touting the bar’s relaxed, simple atmosphere. “It seems to work and it didn’t seem prudent to really change anything. It reminds me of some of the places we used to go to in Texas.”
The feel changes sometimes during the summer, when it can get packed. “That’s when it loses some of its character—or should I say characters,” John says. “But they come back once it quiets down.”
This summer its outside deck should have a lightly different, bigger feel as well as the Duty’s have bought the land just downstream, plan to take out the fence and open it up to border their new Yampa River Icehouse restaurant next door. “But don’t worry,” says Duty. “It will still feel like good ol’ Sunpies.”